Pedaling Forward

To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was the steed upon which they rode into a new world.  “Women and the Wheel” Munsey’s Magazine, May 1896

And so begins Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy. I stumbled across this book while ordering books for our school library. At only 96 pages, it is not a heavily laden book of history, but more of a scrapbookish look at women’s freedom encouraged by a simple machine. There are ample pictures and diagrams showing the women’s movement over time and how and exactly where the bicycle played a part.

Reading this brought me back to something I blogged a while back and also begs the question: what happened to the love of bicycles and women? Where I ride, there aren’t that many interested in bicycles. Guessing, I would fairly estimate 1 to 10 ration or higher when it comes to women and men on bikes. Billions and billions of dollars are spent on diet fads of all kinds, and the majority of that is with the female gender . . . but that is a completely different blog because most people want to look great without putting in the work. I digress. I have noticed more and more women walking where I ride. Many of these women are sauntering along in their workout clothes talking on a cell phone, burning somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 calories and hour!  To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of one cup of blueberries or one boiled egg or one skinless chicken leg or eighteen pistachio nuts. I realize that many are walking to be walking, enjoying the outdoors, but if fitness is involved it should be taken more seriously if the goal is to be fit.

How to start? You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a bicycle on your first try. Buy something used or a cheaper entry bicycle. Your local bike shop can show you how, just do the research first before you step through the door. There are a number of bicycles for different styles of riding and different terrain. Rent a bike or two at the start and try various places to get a feel of what you would like. Ride with friends and/or family. Enjoy your freedom. Happy cycling!


7 thoughts on “Pedaling Forward

  1. The Women and the Wheel book brings to mind, Call the Midwife a book by Jennifer Worth recounting her time as a nurse in East London during the 1950’s . And also a popular BBC program. The nurses relied heavily upon the bicycle for their daily transport. The bicycle played a prominent role for those women as well.

    Always playing second fiddle, the bicycle is somewhat understated in modern times. It seems to be one of those magnificent and simplistic mechanisms that has stood the test of time, yet in some sense and cultures (namely N.A.) is unappreciated and even forsaken amongst the general population for everyday use.

    One of the major reasons why the bicycle is not a consideration in the U.S, is because of the Auto Maker Lobby, organizations like AAA and the Oil Cartel. Their payoffs to corrupted politicians has forgone any infrastructure for the bicycle in the last 50-60 years. Sure in urban areas there is some consideration. But in the suburbs and in rural areas, Zip. Zero. Nada. Nein. None.

    The scumbag parties of Republicans and Democrats are both culpable for this.


      1. Now hang on a second… I live in the “rural area(s)” and I wouldn’t change a thing! Well, check that, in northern Michigan almost every road north of Bay City/Saginaw has a 3′ shoulder which would be perfect, but down here in the southeast of the State, where I live, the roads are fantastic for cycling. The ratio is still 10:1 but my wife is one of those 1’s. There are a few jerks, all drive pickups oddly enough, but the cycling out here is so awesome I wouldn’t think of moving.

        I dig your post but I’d save the infrastructure for the congested areas unless we’re talking about wider shoulders. That’s all that is needed in rural areas.

  2. It may be more useful to look at cycling infrastructure which makes it safer for a broader range of wannabe cyclists to use. Living in an area that is walkable and cycleable helps a lot.

    Rather than focus on distance or cycling gear, more on weaving cycling into one’s lifestyle for shopping, general fitness or to get to work. Do you live in an area with snow?

    And does your wife cycle at all? She may give you a clue why there is less women in your area cycling.

    1. Actually, she does not. She’s a “CrossFitter.” She will ride with me occasionally, but she just loves doing her thing. Oh, she has told me what she thinks about it when I point it out to her. She thinks that many women are intimated by all of the men with whom they’d have to group ride.
      No, we don’t live in a snow area. And that is a good idea about incorporating cycling into everyday life. We have a great layout on the river where we live, and I think it would be incredible to see people using cycling as a means of A to B.
      Thank you for the comment, Jean! 🙂

      1. “She thinks that many women are intimated by all of the men with whom they’d have to group ride.”

        And that is unfortunately, a far too narrow way of seeing cycling. Very stereotypical.

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